December 29, 2008 [Volume 3, Issue 2]
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In this issue of To Your Health:
The At-Home Athlete
Food Additives: What You Don't Know May Hurt You
Marketing Poor Health to Kids

The At-Home Athlete

When it comes to getting in shape, there are several Golden Rules: train smart, not hard; rest and recovery are critical; intensity is more important than duration; and proper nutrition is vital. Notice what's not on the list: expensive gym memberships, fancy pieces of equipment and time.

It's possible to sculpt a better body with simple, inexpensive equipment, smart training and fast-paced, intensity-focused routines that take minimal time. The problem for most people embarking on a home fitness routine is learning where to begin, how often to work out and what equipment to use. Here are 10 recommended tools for an all-inclusive full-body workout. Some are inexpensive pieces of equipment; others are simple methods of training. You don't need all 10 before starting. Choose one and slowly build your fitness foundation.

1.Light dumbbells
2.Body-weight training
3.Stability ball
4.Weighted fitness bar
5.Plyometrics
6.Medicine ball
7.Jump rope
8.Chin-up bar
9.Resistance bands
10.Kettlebell

Not sure what all of these are or how to incorporate them into your fitness program? Ask your doctor for more information, and remember these general rules: start off gently, increase your workout intensity gradually over several weeks, don't hold your breath, try to keep strict form, stay under control, and stop immediately if you feel dizzy, faint or in pain.

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Food Additives: What You Don't Know May Hurt You

Every day we are bombarded with ads on TV, radio and in magazines and newspapers trying to sell us the latest and greatest processed cuisine and "fake" foods. The ads promote great taste, low fat, added nutrients, attractive appearance and a host of other reasons to choose their product. There are even chemical concoctions marketed as better than real food, such as egg replacer products, nondairy dairy foods, fake meats and cheeses, and butter substitutes.

Are these products really good for you? You've undoubtedly heard it before, but it's worth repeating: To determine the healthfulness of any product on the market, you must first read the label. Here are some of the more common ingredients to watch out for.

*Aspartame, also known as Equal, NutraSweet or Spoonful, is an artificial sweetener used in many diet beverages, sugar-free foods, gum, candy, OTC medications, nutritional supplements and certain prescription drugs. Consumption of products containing aspartame has been associated with 92 different adverse reactions, from headaches, dizziness and difficulty breathing to memory loss, seizures and death.

*MSG (monosodium glutamate) is in almost all processed foods and most restaurant meals. It's even in some foods that say "No MSG" or "No Added MSG." Even some restaurants that say they do not use MSG have it in their food, and they may not even be aware of it. MSG can be hidden in a variety of ingredients you wouldn't expect to contain MSG. For example, certain ingredients that always contain MSG include amino acids, autolyzed yeast, calcium caseinate, gelatin, any kind of hydrolyzed protein, textured protein and yeast extract.

Some of the ingredients that may contain MSG include barley malt, bouillon, broth, stock, carrageenan, any kind of flavors or flavoring including natural flavors, maltodextrin, any kind of protein such as soy protein, plant protein, pea protein, corn protein, whey protein, anything that is protein fortified, protein concentrates and protein isolates, seasonings, and anything that is ultra-pasteurized.

*Other dangerous ingredients: artificial sweeteners, saccharin, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, artificial colors or FD&C colors, nitrates and nitrites, BHA and BHT, and caffeine.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. There are more than 3,000 different chemicals purposefully added to our food, and new ingredients are added every year. Here's a general rule of thumb when checking ingredients on food labels: If the list of ingredients is long, there are probably a lot of chemical additives in the product, and you're risking your health by eating it. If the list of ingredients is short, it may or may not contain harmful additives, so you need to read the label carefully before you purchase it.

That's the most important point: Be an informed shopper. Look at what you're buying before you and your family eat it. Your health is that important.

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Marketing Poor Health to Kids

You've seen them on TV and in your supermarket aisle: superheroes and cartoon characters touting everything from sodas to sugar-laden cereals and snack chips. Batman, SpongeBob SquarePants and other characters have a willing consumer audience in our nation's children, to the tune of $1.6 billion a year, according to a recent report released by no less than the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The report, "Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities, and Self-Regulation," found that advertising food products to children is all about integrated ad campaigns that combine traditional media, such as television, with packaging, in-store advertising, sweepstakes and the Internet. What this essentially means is that every time your child asks for a food item they saw advertised on TV, sends in a proof of purchase or logs on to the Internet to collect points to win prizes distributed by the food manufacturers, they are getting the message that eating these nutritionally deficient foods is actually a good thing.

So, what was the biggest category of marketing expenditure ($492 million) for the 44 companies included in the survey? Carbonated-drink advertising. By comparison, the Dairy Association's "Got Milk?" ads cost approximately $67 million in 2006. However, the report notes that even those ads were aimed toward children and adolescents, featuring such popular celebrities as British soccer star David Beckham, pop singer Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) and yes, even the aforementioned Batman.

In terms of where the money is spent, the report noted, "Television advertising still dominates the landscape of marketing techniques used to promote foods and beverages to youth; companies reported spending $745 million, or 46% of all reported youth marketing expenditures, on this medium. More than 50% of the television advertising was directed to children under 12, with breakfast cereals and restaurant food accounting for more than half of that advertising. Carbonated beverages and restaurant food dominated adolescent-directed television advertising. All told, traditional measured media' (television, radio and print) accounted for $853 million, or 53% of the reported youth-directed marketing expenditures."

There you have it: the ugly truth about the extent companies go to in order to entice kids to eat less-than-healthy food. To learn more, access the full study at www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/07/foodmkting.shtm.

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